The Sixers have been on a tear, winning 18 of their last 21 games and are now sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference. One of Philadelphia’s newest additions has helped spur this run: Mike D’Antoni. The 76ers’ interim coach is having his best season with the team since 2005-2006 when he led them to an NBA Championship as head coach. However, one man isn’t happy about all these rumblings that the 76ers might be looking at bringing back D’Antoni as permanent head coach — Doc Rivers!

The “76ers head coach” is a rumor that the 76ers are considering pursuing Mike D’Antoni as their next head coach. The 76ers have been doing a superb job this season, and it would be a shame if they were to hire someone who has done nothing but lose in recent years.

Rumblings of the 76ers Pursuing Mike D'Antoni Totally Undermine the Superb Job Doc Rivers Has Done This Season

After the Sixers shook up the NBA trade deadline by acquiring James Harden from the Brooklyn Nets, head coach Doc Rivers had to breathe a sigh of relief knowing he wouldn’t have to field any more Ben Simmons inquiries. Harden, on the other hand, has already added to Rivers’ drama, although in the most tangential of ways.

The friendship between The Beard and Sixers president Daryl Morey is one of the reasons the 76ers went all out for Harden — and risked tampering sanctions. Harden became one of the NBA’s greatest stars in H-Town when he was the general manager of the Houston Rockets. Morey’s admiration for the 2017-18 NBA MVP led to a fervent pursuit.

Another person related to Morey and Harden is now linked to Philadelphia. Although the accuracy of these stories is debatable, they ultimately do a disservice to Rivers’ outstanding coaching abilities.

The 76ers are expected to hire Mike D’Antoni to replace Doc Rivers, according to league sources.

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers shares a laugh with Mike D'Antoni during an NBA game in 2017

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers shares a laugh with Mike D'Antoni during an NBA game in 2017 On April 10, 2017, Doc Rivers laughs with Mike D’Antoni during an NBA game | Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The 76ers’ relentless pursuit of James Harden is a win-now strategy. Rivers and the rest of the coaching staff are under a lot of pressure to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy and integrate Harden into the team.

If Rivers fails to lead the Sixers to a title, Morey is said to be considering replacing him with a familiar face.

Morey may want former Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni to follow Rivers as the 76ers’ next head coach, according to Marc Stein of the Philadelphia Inquirer (h/t Substack). Although the Eagles are unlikely to make a coaching change this season, it’s possible that Morey will adopt a championship-or-bust mentality and use it to judge Rivers in the future.

On the one hand, Rivers has a reputation for being more of a players’ coach than an Xs and Os kind of man. Harden, on the other hand, has a large and demanding personality. Morey may believe that familiarity will prevail in getting things to function on the court.

Realistically, much of the 76ers’ success depends on how Harden meshes with Joel Embiid. Additionally, Kyle Neubeck of the Philly Voice spoke to team sources who denied the D’Antoni-Rivers rumors. Still, an executive as mercurial as Morey could well shake things up on the bench.

Is James Harden being catered to by the 76ers?

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It’s debatable if Harden tarnished his legacy by effectively requesting another trade. Even the most critical fan, though, cannot dispute his position as one of this generation’s top offensive players.

Mike D’Antoni was instrumental in developing Harden’s offensive prowess. Are the 76ers aiming to repeat this by bringing D’Antoni into the fold in the future?

D’Antoni, who coached the Rockets from 2016 to 2020, made Harden the focal point of Houston’s offense after inventing the “seven seconds or fewer” approach as head coach of the Phoenix Suns. D’Antoni surrounded The Beard with shooters and a rim-rolling big in Clint Capela, allowing him to isolate at will in five-out schemes.

The usage rates of Harden tell much about D’Antoni’s offensive strategy. Harden has just come off the greatest usage rate before D’Antoni came (32.5 percent ). By the start of the 2018-19 season, The Beard’s usage rate had above 40%, and he had led the NBA in that category for two years in a row.

Here’s another thing to think about: Last season, D’Antoni worked as Steve Nash’s assistant in Brooklyn. Harden had a fantastic season in 2020-21 until suffering a hamstring injury that ended his season.

The 76ers are undoubtedly eager to adapt Harden to Philadelphia as quickly as possible and will do everything necessary to make The Beard feel at ease. The Sixers could accomplish this aim by appointing D’Antoni as head coach, but such decision would make it clear that they are effectively pandering to Harden.

It seems dumb enough to make front-office choices solely on Harden’s whims and preferences. But it’s more worse when you consider Doc Rivers’ performance this year.

Coach of the Year contender Doc Rivers

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Ben Simmons is an All-NBA player, regardless of how people see him. Simmons was the 76ers’ second-best player and one of the top defenders in the NBA.

Given that Simmons has not played a single game for the Sixers this season, the Sixers are near the top of the Eastern Conference. That says a lot about Rivers’ teaching abilities.

Rivers has given Joel Embiid greater flexibility to exploit his skill set as a passer and playmaker in transition by allowing the offense to flow through him. He hasn’t shied away from playing Tyrese Maxey a lot of minutes and giving him more responsibility. In many respects, Simmons became disposable as a result of the early-season commitment to Maxey.

Rivers has also done an excellent job managing the Matisse Thybulle-Danny Green wing combo while also allowing Georges Niang to play as a crucial floor-spacer. The 76ers’ head coach, in particular, has aided in the facilitation of pleasurable basketball.

Embiid has said many times this season that he is having more fun than ever before. Part of his pleasure is undoubtedly due to a greater utilization rate. Despite this, Rivers has pushed the correct buttons and built a solid culture.

Given Rivers’ performance this season, the 76ers should offer him some leeway. Yes, Doc’s repeated squandered 3-1 playoff leads loom large in his mind. But he deserves an opportunity to work with Philly’s new star combo in the future, especially since Harden has already shown interest in playing with Rivers.

Daryl Morey is one of the most unexpected people you’ll ever meet. However, removing Rivers in favor of a more recognizable face would be an injustice to what Doc has achieved with this Sixers club thus far this season.

Basketball Reference provided the statistics.

RELATED: For 76ers Coach Doc Rivers and Guard Seth Curry, the Star Guard James Harden’s Blockbuster Acquisition Separated Their Family

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